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05/07/2015 Barrons GRE ­ Lesson ­ Advanced Quantitative Comparison Strategies

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Advanced Quantitative Comparison Strategies
General Review of GR..
This chapter will bolster your basic Quantitative Comparison skills with a few
additional problem‐solving techniques to help you crack the toughest of this question
Rate Problems
type on the GRE. Three strategies in particular will be the focus of this lesson: Doing
the Same Thing to Each Quantity, Ask “Could They Be Equal?” and “Must They Be
Equal?”, and Compare, Don't Calculate.  

Make the Problem Easier: Do the Same Thing to Each Quantity

Work Problems
A quantitative comparison question can be treated as an equation or an inequality. Proficiency

Quantity A < Quantity B, or

Quantity A = Quantity B, or Text Completion and ..
Quantity A > Quantity B Proficiency
In solving an equation or an inequality, you can always add the same thing to each
side or subtract the same thing from each side. Similarly, in solving a quantitative
comparison, you can always add the same thing to quantities A and B or subtract the Arguments Review
same thing from quantities A and B. You can also multiply or divide each side of an Proficiency
equation or inequality by the same number, but in the case of inequalities you can  
do this only if the number is positive. Since you don’t know whether the quantities
are equal or unequal, you cannot multiply or divide by a variable unless you know
that it is positive. If quantities A and B are both positive you may square them or GRE Essay Review
take their square roots. Proficiency
To illustrate the proper use of this tactic, we will give alternative solutions to the
next three examples, which can also be solved by plugging in.

  Example 4

m > 0 and m ≠ 1

Quantity A Quantity B
m2 m3

This is a much easier comparison. Which is greater, m or 1? We don’t know. We

know m > 0 and m ≠ 1, but it could be greater than 1 or less than 1. The answer is

  Example 5

Quantity A Quantity B
13y 15y

  Quantity A Quantity B
Subtract13y from each 13y – 13y = 0 15y – 13y = 2y

Since there are no restrictions on y, 2y could be greater than, less than, or equal
to 0. The answer is D.

  Example 6

Quantity A Quantity B
w + 11 w – 11

  Quantity A Quantity B
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05/07/2015 Barrons GRE ­ Lesson ­ Advanced Quantitative Comparison Strategies
Subtract w from each (w + 11) – w = 11 (w – 11) – w = –11

Clearly, 11 is greater than –11. Quantity A is greater.

Here are five more examples on which to practice.

  Example 13

Quantity A Quantity B

  Quantity A Quantity B
Subtract and from each


Since > , the answer is A.

  Example 14

Quantity A Quantity B
(43 + 59)(17 – 6) (43 + 59)(17 + 6)
  Quantity A Quantity B
Divide each quantity by (43
+ 59):

Clearly, (17 + 6) > (17 – 6). The answer is B.

  Example 15

Quantity A Quantity B
(43 – 59)(43 – 49) (43 – 59)(43 + 49)


(43 – 59) is negative, and you may not divide the two quantities by a
negative number.

The easiest alternative is to note that Quantity A, being the product of 2 negative
numbers, is positive, whereas Quantity B, being the product of a negative number
and a positive number, is negative, and so Quantity A is greater.

  Example 16

a is a negative number

Quantity A Quantity B
a2 –a2

  Quantity A Quantity B
Add a2 to each quantity: a2 + a2 = 2a2 –a2 + a2 = 0

Since a is negative, 2a2 is positive. The answer is A.

  Example 17

Quantity A Quantity B

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05/07/2015 Barrons GRE ­ Lesson ­ Advanced Quantitative Comparison Strategies

  Quantity A Quantity B
Square each quantity:

The answer is C.

Ask “Could They Be Equal?” and “Must They Be Equal?”

This has many applications, but is most useful when one of the quantities contains a
variable and the other contains a number. In this situation ask yourself, “Could they
be equal?” If the answer is “yes,” eliminate A and B, and then ask, “Must they be
equal?” If the second answer is “yes,” then C is correct; if the second answer is “no,”
then choose D. When the answer to “Could they be equal?” is “no,” we usually know
right away what the correct answer is. In both questions, “Could they be equal” and
“Must they be equal,” the word they refers, of course, to quantities A and B.

Let’s look at a few examples.

  Example 18

The sides of a triangle are 3, 4, and x

Quantity A Quantity B
x 5


Could they be equal? Could x = 5? Of course. That’s the all‐important 3‐4‐5 right
triangle. Eliminate A and B. Must they be equal? Must x = 5? If you’re not sure, try
drawing an acute or an obtuse triangle. The answer is No. Actually, x can be any
number satisfying: 1 < x < 7. (See the triangle inequality, and the figure below.)
The answer is D.

  Example 19

56 < 5c < 64

Quantity A Quantity B
c 12

Could they be equal? Could c = 12? If c = 12, then 5c = 60, so, yes, they could be
equal. Eliminate A and B. Must they be equal? Must c = 12? Could c be more or less
than 12? BE CAREFUL: 5 × 11 = 55, which is too small; and 5 × 13 = 65, which is too
big. Therefore, the only integer that c could be is 12; but c doesn’t have to be an
integer. The only restriction is that 56 < 5c < 64. If 5c were 58 or 61.6 or 63, then
c would not be 12. The answer is D.

  Example 20

School A has 100 teachers and School B has 200 teachers. Each school has more
female teachers than male teachers.

Quantity A Quantity B
The number of female teachers at The number of female teachers at
School A School B

Could they be equal? Could the number of female teachers be the same in both
schools? No. More than half (i.e., more than 100) of School B’s 200 teachers are
female, but School A has only 100 teachers in all. The answer is B.

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05/07/2015 Barrons GRE ­ Lesson ­ Advanced Quantitative Comparison Strategies
  Example 21

(m + 1)(m + 2)(m + 3) = 720

Quantity A Quantity B
m+2 10

Could they be equal? Could m + 2 = 10? No, if m + 2 = 10, then m + 1 = 9 and m + 3
= 11, and 9 × 10 × 11 = 990, which is too big. The answer is not C, and since m + 2
clearly has to be smaller than 10, the answer is B.

  Example 22

Quantity A Quantity B
The perimeter of a rectangle whose area 20
is 21

Could they be equal? Could a rectangle whose area is 21 have a perimeter of 20?
Yes, if its length is 7 and its width is 3: 7 + 3 + 7 + 3 = 20. Eliminate A and B. Must
they be equal? If you’re sure that there is no other rectangle with an area of 21,
then choose C; if you’re not sure, guess between C and D; if you know there are
other rectangles of area 21, choose D.
There are other possibilities — lots of them; here are a 7 × 3 rectangle and a
few other rectangles whose areas are 21:

Don’t Calculate: Compare

Avoid unnecessary calculations. You don’t have to determine the exact values of
Quantity A and Quantity B; you just have to compare them.

Using this tactic allows you to solve many quantitative comparisons without doing
tedious calculations, thereby saving you valuable test time that you can use on other
questions. Before you start calculating, stop, look at the quantities, and ask yourself,
“Can I easily and quickly determine which quantity is greater without doing any
arithmetic?” Consider the next examples, which look very similar, but really aren’t.

  Example 23

Quantity A Quantity B
37 × 43 30 × 53

  Example 24

Quantity A Quantity B
37 × 43 39 × 47

The first example of these two is very easy. Just multiply: 37 × 43 = 1591 and 30 ×
53 = 1590. The answer is A.

The second is even easier. Don’t multiply. In less time than it takes to do the
multiplications, even with the calculator, you can see that 37 < 39 and 43 < 47, so
clearly 37 × 43 < 39 × 47. The answer is B. You don’t get any extra credit for
taking the time to determine the value of each product!

Remember: do not start calculating immediately. Always take a second or two to

glance at each quantity. In the first example above, it’s not at all clear which
product is larger, so you have to multiply. In the second, however, no calculations
are necessary.

These are problems on which poor test‐takers do a lot of arithmetic and good test‐

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05/07/2015 Barrons GRE ­ Lesson ­ Advanced Quantitative Comparison Strategies
takers think! Practicing comparing, not calculating will help you become a good

Now, test your understanding by solving these problems.

  Example 25

Quantity A Quantity B
The number of years from 1776 to 1929 The number of years from 1767 to 1992

  Example 26

Quantity A Quantity B
452 + 252 (45 + 25)2

  Example 27

Quantity A Quantity B
45(35 + 65) 45 × 35 + 45 × 65

  Example 28

Marianne earned a 75 on each of her first three math tests and an 80 on her fourth
and fifth tests.

Quantity A Quantity B
Marianne’s average after 4 tests Marianne’s average after 5 tests


Performing the Indicated Calculations Compare, Don't Calculate

25. Quantity A: 25. The subtraction is easy enough,
1929 – 1776 = 153 but why do it? The dates in
Quantity B: Quantity B start earlier and end
1992 – 1767 = 225 later. Clearly, they span more
The answer is B. years. You don’t need to know
how many years. The answer is B.

26. Quantity A: 452 + 252 = 26. For any positive numbers a and b:
2025 + 625 = 2650 (a + b)2 > a2 + b2. You should do
Quantity B: (45 + 25)2 = the calculations only if you don’t
know this fact.
702 = 4900
The answer is B.
The answer is B.

27. Quantity A: 45(35 + 65) = 27. This is just the distributive

45(100) = 4500 property, which states that, for
Quantity B: 45 × 35 + 45 × 65 = any numbers a, b, c: a(b + c) = ab
1575 + 2925 = 4500 + ac.
The answer is C. The answer is C.

28. Quantity A: 28. Remember, you want to know

which average is higher, not what
the averages are. After 4 tests
Marianne’s average is clearly less
than 80, so an 80 on the fifth test
had to raise her average (see
Averages for more info).
The answer is B.
The answer is B.

Being able  to use this tactic  is
important, but don’t spend a lot of time
looking for ways to avoid a simple

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05/07/2015 Barrons GRE ­ Lesson ­ Advanced Quantitative Comparison Strategies
Know When to Avoid Choice D

If Quantity A and Quantity B are both fixed numbers, the answer cannot be D.

Notice that D was not the correct answer to any of the six examples discussed in the
last section. Those problems had no variables. The quantities were all specific
numbers. In each of the next four examples, Quantity A and Quantity B are also fixed
numbers. In each case, either the two numbers are equal or one is greater than the
other. It can always be determined, and so D cannot be the correct answer to any of
these problems. If, while taking the GRE, you find a problem of this type that you
can’t solve, just guess: A, B, or C. Now try these four examples.

  Example 29

Quantity A Quantity B
The number of seconds in one day The number of days in one century

  Example 30

Quantity A Quantity B
The area of a square whose sides are 4 Twice the area of an equilateral triangle
whose sides are 4

  Example 31

Three fair coins are flipped.

Quantity A Quantity B
The probability of getting one head The probability of getting two heads

  Example 32

Quantity A Quantity B
The time it takes to drive 40 miles at 35 The time it takes to drive 35 miles at 40
mph mph

Here’s the important point to remember: don’t choose D because you can’t
determine which quantity is bigger; choose D only if nobody could determine it.
You may or may not know how to compute the number of seconds in a day, the
area of an equilateral triangle, or a certain probability, but these calculations can
be made.


Direct Calculation Solution Using Various Tactics

29. Recall the facts you need and 29. The point is that even if you have
calculate. 60 seconds = 1 minute, no idea how to calculate the
60 minutes = 1 hour, 24 hours = 1 number of seconds in a day, you can
day, 365 days = 1 year, and 100 eliminate two choices.
years = 1 century. The answer cannot be D, and it
Quantity A: 60 × 60 × 24 = 86,400 would be an incredible coincidence
Quantity B: 365 × 100 = 36,500 if these two quantities were
Even if we throw in some days for actually equal, so don’t choose C.
leap years, the answer is clearly A. Guess between A and B.

30. Calculate both areas. 30. Don't calculate— draw a diagram

2 and then compare.
Quantity A: A = s = 42 = 16
Quantity B:

Since the height of the triangle is

less than 4, its area is less than (4)

The answer is A. (4) = 8, and twice its area is less

than 16, the area of the square.
The answer is A.
(If you don’t see that, and just have

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05/07/2015 Barrons GRE ­ Lesson ­ Advanced Quantitative Comparison Strategies
to guess in order to move on, be
sure not to guess D.)
31. When a coin is flipped 3 times, 31. Compare, don't calculate. Even if
there are 8 possible outcomes: you know how, you don’t have to
HHH, HHT, HTH, HTT, THH, THT, calculate the probabilities. When 3
TTH, and TTT. Of these, 3 have one coins are flipped, getting two heads
head and 3 have two heads. Each means getting one tail.
Therefore, the probability of two
probability is .
heads equals the probability of one
The answer is C. tail, which by symmetry equals the
probability of one head. The answer
is C . (If you don’t remember
anything about probability, this at
least allows you to eliminate D
before you guess.)

32. You do need to know these

32. Since d = rt, t = [see Sect. 11‐H].
formulas, but not for this problem.
Quantity A: At 35 mph it takes more than an
hour to drive 40 miles. At 40 mph it
hours—more than 1 hour.
takes less than an hour to drive 35
Quantity B: miles. Choose A.

hours—less than 1 hour.

The answer is A.

These three tactics for solving tough Quantitative Comparison questions are
invaluable, but they require a decent bit of practice to fully absorb. The more you
use them, the more natural these initially complex tactics will become!

We are constantly trying to improve. Feedback appreciated.  

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